Moab, Utah lures international visitors, specifically those from China
By Mary Jeneverre Schultz, Twitter: @Jeneverre
Movies, unique rock formations and uranium are a common thread for this desert town. Just 5.5 hours away from downtown Denver, Moab is evolving into an international desert location, luring an increasingly diverse and international group of travelers every year. These visitors are looking for new activities and ways of experiencing the area.
The Asian market makes up about 11 percent of their guest business, according to Dave Wiggins of Widness & Wiggins PR, a spokesperson for Moab Adventure Center.
Arches National Park and Canyon lands
Both Arches National Park and Canyon lands attract the international tourists, who want to capture the images of these amazing rock formations. Thrill seekers will salivate in activities such as climbing the areas called Wall Street for its challenging steep rocks inside Canyon lands. Jet boat tours can view these daring climbers as they cruise on the Colorado River. According to Arches National Park’s statistics, 30 percent of the 757,781 entrants in 2003 were international travelers.
Skip Interstate 70 and take a detour through Scenic Byway 128, a 44-mile drive.
This beautiful drive, could take about one hour without stops, along Colorado River takes the motorist through spectacular red canyon cliffs, overlooks and pullouts throughout the weaving 2-lane roads. On a good summer day, rafters are visible from the road, making it great people-watching activity.
More than 500,000 visitors will check out Moab, Utah for all its adventurous excursions, according to the Moab Tourism Council.
The rocks, river, trees, huge red rock cliffs and beaches provide a unique driving experience in the area. If time permits, take a side route to Onion Creek Canyon and Fisher Tower, made famous for the recent commercial on Citi credit card. Visitors can take a break from driving for a photo opp.
The sections with narrow river gorges are phenomenal. The more open areas have wonderful views of classic western rock outcroppings and buttes. The spectacular Fisher Towers en route alone are worth spending a few hours wandering around. Don’t miss this area!
Campsites and picnic spots are littered throughout the highway. During the summer, these camp sites are booked solid. Spend some time planning to secure a reservation.
Why the increase of Asian travelers?
China is another developing country that has been making its presence felt in Utah. Chinese tourists have become particularly sought after in America because of the amount of money that they spend while on vacation. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s annual report indicated Chinese tourists spend about $6,000 per visit compared to the $4,000 average for other nationalities.
In addition, the U.S. Travel Association shared the drive to attract Chinese travelers is also fueled by the massive increase in visas issued to mainlanders, which has risen 438 percent since 2004 and is expected to become America’s biggest in-bound market by 2016.
The increase in tourism from developing countries is in part due to the Travel Promotion Act (TPA), which was passed by the Obama administration in 2010 as a result of pressure from the tourism industry. The TPA created a tourism marketing and promotional fund, and streamlined the process for obtaining a US tourist visa for residents of countries like Mexico, Brazil and China, the three largest applicant countries. Earlier this year Obama promised to further increase the visa processing capacity for these countries by 40 percent.
The increasing Asian demand for more traditional, bus-based site seeing, together with domestic and European tourist’s interest in adventure sports, mean that Moab’s tourism industry will most likely grow in both directions. The unparalleled terrain that Moab offers will continue to draw adrenaline junkies and shutterbugs alike.
Several tours are available from Moab Adventure Center. They include: rafting, Hummer safaris, river jetboat, horseback riding, canyoneering, hot air balloon rides, stand up paddle boarding, and high rope courses.
Local tour guides share their personal accounts of touring with Chinese and Japanese tourists. The tour guide of a hummer safari retold from the summer of 2012. A 12-person tour group from China could not speak English, only the translator. During the entire tour, no one said a thing. To get a rise from the group, the tour guide put up his hands and rolled backwards on a steep include – that was the only time the whole tour screamed in terror for their safety.
Another tour guide from a rafting trip shared his encounter with a Japanese tour group. No one spoke a word, even the translator. Three quarters through the trail, the tour guide grabbed a low-lying branch and climbed up on it. After a good 10 seconds, the stoic group realized their tour guide disappeared and started screaming for help. The tour guide jumped into the river and swam to them, chuckling to himself.
In 2012, locals shared witnessing the backdrops for 2013 summer movies such as Will Smith’s After Earth and The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp. Along with boosting the local economy, these films increase Moab’s international visibility. This is a big draw for Asian tourists in particular.
All the tour guides know their locations for previous movies, commercials or television series. In hummer safaris, guides are knowledgeable of the desert landscapes and why films selected a particular terrain, while river guides can point out specific spots on the Colorado River for old movie sets.
For a better overview, visit the Movie Museum at the Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge, located on Scenic Byway 128. This museum showcases films and commercials of Hollywood while displaying cowboy artifacts in ranching and black & white images. It gives a great overview of the desert community.
Most of the posters are captured in this Movie Museum. A life-size image of John Wayne is displayed for fans of this Western movie star. Movies include: Back to the Future 2 and 3, Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise, Austin Powers, and Lone Ranger.
Before Moab became the Mecca for adventure seekers, uranium played a big part of its history. Geologist and scientists were the visitors of the 1940s and 1950s. The desired metal became the sought-after chemical elements when world forces chasing the position for nuclear power.
Tour guides for jet boats through the Canyon lands will point out several plants through the area to interested visitors curious about the history and geology of this city in Utah.
To plan your trip in Moab, Utah, contact Moab Adventure Center at (866) 904-1163.
Mary Jeneverre Schultz added Moab to her bucket list ten years ago when husband, Frank left her for a four-wheeling trip with just the boys. Follow her on Twitter @Jeneverre for more adventures in Moab.
Planning a Trip to Moab
Moab Adventure Center
225 South Main Street
Moab, Utah 84532
Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge/Movie Museum
Mile Post 14, Hwy 128
Moab, Utah 84532
Arches National Park
Moab Area Travel Council
84 North 100 East
Moab, UT 84532